How America Fought Its Wars: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War

By Victor Brooks; Robert Hohwald | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
The Philadelphia
Campaign

The Final Confrontation between Howe
and Washington

Sir William Howe spent a comfortable winter in newly captured New York City following the campaign of 1776. While he enjoyed the congenial company of the numerous Loyalist prominent families and continued his affair with Mrs. Betsey Loring, the wife of his newly appointed commissary of prisoners, Howe began to explore a possible operational plan for the next campaign. On April 2nd, 1777, the British general wrote to Lord George Germain with a proposal to capture Philadelphia using the main part of his army while leaving a small force behind to hold New York. This plan suggested the advantage of a seaborne assault on the rebel capital which would eliminate the need to maintain a 100 mile long supply line from New York through New Jersey if an overland campaign was attempted. A waterborne expedition would make maximum use of Britain's enormous naval superiority but would also place the main British army in North America out of supporting range of Burgoyne's proposed expeditionary force from Canada. Since Howe was convinced that the Canadian operation was Burgoyne's "private show," which was drawing troops, supplies and attention from his own more important campaign, the prospect of operating out of supporting range of a competing general was hardly an undesirable situation for the British commander.

The British army in the early spring of 1777 was a military force that was still far superior to its rebel adversary in numbers and training. Despite the setbacks at Trenton and Princeton the previous winter, Howe's regiments comprised a magnificently equipped, supremely confident corps that could concentrate 20,000 men for a battle with the Americans while still maintaining large garrisons around New York City. However, prospects for ultimate

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